I want you to meet my new favorite hellebore, Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'. I have never met a hellebore I didn't like and my garden is full of them, but I have to say that 'Josef Lemper' has quickly risen to the top of my list of favorites.
Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'
Having only been in the ground since mid-summer, the first flower appeared shortly after Thanksgiving. Two more opened prior to Christmas and last week, even under four inches of snow, the "little plant that could" kept right on flowering! This week, with the snow finally gone, three more flowers have opened and I can see at least a half dozen more buds that will open over the next two to three weeks. Not bad for a plant that has only been in the garden six months and was just a small, 1-gallon specimen to begin with. I can't wait to see what it does in future years!
Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus', photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
Other favorite hellebores include Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus', an exquisite double-flowered form with creamy yellow petals and Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Silver Moon' with black-green foliage traced with silvery veins and white flowers that have appeared as early as mid-January in some years. This year, though, it looks like the big show is going to come in February.
Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Silver Moon'
Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' was up near the top of the list for a long time and it is second to none where flower power is concerned, but I lost all of my plants to crown rot last summer--and my garden is nowhere close to being wet, since I live on a dry ridge. I'm going to try it again, but its propensity to succumb to crown rot has moved it down the list a little ways--at least for now.